My Personal Reflection for Ascension Day.
In the pre-Vatican II Roman Liturgical Calendar, May 29 is supposed to be the Ascension Day counting forty days from the celebration of Easter. But in the revised calendar Ascension Day is celebrated Sunday. Whatever the reasons for such changes may not be as important for us now, but what is important is the eschatological significance of the Christ’s Ascension into heaven. Allow me to share some of my personal reflections on this topic.
The ascension of Christ into Heaven being the first fruit is of so much significance for us Christians. Jesus of Nazareth the Christ was the new Adam prophesied in the Old Testament and by His testimony declared that He came to fulfil the Law and the prophets. “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world!” exclaimed John the Baptist. On that morning of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene was about to touch Jesus. But Jesus forbade her and told her “touch me not for I have not yet ascended unto my Father and your Father, but go tell my Brethren.” Like the ancient Hebrews Christians believed in the resurrection of the body. There is a tendency among the heretics of ancient times and even today to spiritualize the resurrection because of the incomprehensibility of the idea that a corrupted body can still be restored to life. Here lays, the call of faith. Only the apostles and a few others witnessed the resurrection. Why was this important event exclusively given to a few? Perhaps the most obvious reason is to make us inheritors of the Kingdom of God by faith. St. Paul, in his theology gave a primary role to the resurrection of the body and even said that without this central tenet of the gospel, we are the most miserable of all men. For why would we accept suffering and humiliation for the sake of the gospel if we are not going to be rewarded with what we seek for? –eternal life. We carry the cross not for the sake of carrying it but as a means to obtain what we seek for. Sometimes there is a tendency to relegate this very important doctrine to oblivion. As if after death men and women would simply become disembodied spirits. But this is not the case. St. Thomas Aquinas, that erudite Dominican borrowed the hylophomorphic theory of Aristotle to give us a glimpse as to why the resurrection of the body is necessary. The being of man is like matter and form. Every form has matter and every matter should take on form. So is man. Man cannot be a man without the body. Hence, there is the necessity of the resurrection. This is the reason why we pray for the dead because we believe in the resurrection of the body.
The ascension of our Lord into heaven defines the hope that we have. Just as the angels said, that the way you see Jesus ascended and taken up into the clouds so will be the second coming. Christian living is more contextualized when we see things in the light of Christian eschatology or in the light of the end times. Our Lord said: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” These parting words define the way we should live. How easy it is be waylaid by the trivialities of this world. How easy it is to be waylaid by the concerns for social justice that we forget that this world has been judged and that Christ commands us to look forward to the coming Kingdom of which He will finally inaugurate at Hs second coming – a time when we shall sit at the banquet of the supper of the Lamb. Have we forgotten that whatever things we do for others, the charities, the fight for justice and the way we defend the poor are suppose to be the reflection of the values of the Kingdom of God implanted in us and which we are hoping for? Today some people think that the end of everything is on this earth. That if we could make this earth better then we have established God’s Kingdom. This is the pitfall that held some Christians trapped in worldly ideology. Imagining as if Christ came to establish an earthly Kingdom.
If only we could see what is stored for us in the new heavens and the new earth. But human as we are, we simply cannot comprehend these things until we reach the beatific vision. God, however, in His goodness has not left us helpless. But He gives us the faith to comprehend and to cling to this hope in the promise given by God through Christ. For there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. Heaven was gained for us by Christ and that should be our goal. May the Ascension of Lord remind us of the need to trust in Him, for He is with us till the end of the ages. This promise is not in vain but a living promise that we affirm each time we partake of the Eucharist – Christ’s pledge of salvation for us. Of which we are eternally grateful.